As reported by ESPN’s Adam Caplan, the Buffalo Bills have decided to match the two-year, $5 million offer sheet the Los Angeles Rams extended to restricted free agent Ryan Groy.
Groy, 26, signed the offer sheet two days ago, and the Bills had until Monday to make their decision. The Rams, who hired former Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer for the same position this offseason, had hoped to make Groy their starting center after releasing Tim Barnes, who started at the position for them for the last two seasons.
Instead, Groy returns to Buffalo as the top reserve for an interior line that features soon-to-be-34-year-old Richie Incognito and 30-year-old Eric Wood, who is set to become a free agent after this season. It was Wood’s leg injury during the Monday Night Football loss to Seattle that gave Groy the opportunity to start seven games for the Bills at the end of last season, a stretch where he performed just as well as Wood had been, if not better.
I wasn’t terribly high on the chances that the Bills matched the offer when it first came out, but over the last few days I’ve found that most of the Bills Mafia would disagree with me on that front. Make no mistake, Groy is a talented offensive lineman who is capable of starting at either center or guard. Accordingly, the contract pays him as such.
The average annual value of $2.5 million a year would place him 17th among all centers or 32nd among all guards, per Spotrac numbers. This is a starter-level contract for someone who, if all goes according to plan in 2017, will see the field for about 10-15 snaps a game, if that. This is a (relatively) expensive insurance policy for 2017, although the release of Patrick Lewis (which could be coming at this point) would put the overall situation at a manageable level.
This move definitely sets up an interesting situation for the 2017 offseason. The Bills would save slightly over $6 million in cap space by releasing Incognito after this season, when he would be entering the final year of the three-year pact he signed last offseason. They could also allow Wood to leave in free agency; Wood has the fifth-highest cap hit at center this season, but is still a talented player who seems to be revered in the locker room and community.
By retaining Groy, it seems clear that one of those moves is bound to happen next March. For now, though, the Bills retain a key reserve on the interior line while retaining enough money to be able to continue addressing needs from the remaining free agent pool.